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Bikes – the Most Efficient Option for Urban Delivery?

Several companies are looking past traditional trucking deliveries by investigating the use of cargo bikes and new warehouse models. [1,2]

U.K.-based company DPD has begun piloting cargo e-bikes developed by the start-up called Eav in London’s ultra-low emission zones, to reduce emissions and make the city a more pleasant place for pedestrians. Expressed by Anne Goodchild, professor and founding director of the Supply Chain Transportation and Logistics program at the University of Washington, “large trucks make sense in an older supply chain model where you build large scale warehouses far outside the city and truck packages in”. As cities start becoming more congested, we need to experiment with other options like cargo-bikes that are more sustainable and occupy less space, but that also means rethinking of the current warehouse model. Deliveries that are not brought from far away can instead be handled by smaller vehicles that are more agile. Fact is, in October last year, DPD opened a smaller warehouse in Westminster, London, where cargo e-bikes and other small electric vehicles have delivered packages since. Results already show a 49% reduction of miles driven per package, and the company has decreased its emissions by a rate of nearly 50 tons of carbon dioxide per year. [1]

Swedish company Velove is another player that has developed an electric cargo-bike for urban delivery, called Armadillo. A lot of emphases is placed om rethinking warehouse models by containerisation to make city logistics smart. Their solution is based on parcels being placed in containers at the sorting terminals outside the city and picked up by larger trucks transporting the containers to handover points. From there, smaller cargo-bikes can efficiently carry the containers through last-mile delivery. [2]

 

Personal comments

It makes sense to start utilizing smaller, more efficient vehicles to a larger extent as cities become denser. Trucks occupy more space, contribute to reduced travel speeds in urban areas (thus more congestion) and they are more difficult to park. However, relocating deliveries to bike-lanes creates new challenges that need to be addressed. For instance, cyclists are not used to sharing their path with delivery vehicles, and it is crucial to find solutions where we do not just “transfer the congestion issue from the roads to the bike-lanes”.

It will be interesting to see what new options that arise as the last-mile delivery market keeps developing. We wrote about autonomous delivery robots in last week’s article. Another recent product that could be mentioned is the Zbee, an ultra-light connected vehicle with electrical drive, designed for urban transport by the Swedish company Clean Motion. An important part of their development plans is to further expand to urban deliveries. Clean Motion introduces battery swapping technology to enable maximum utilization [3].

 

Written by Hampus Alfredsson, RISE Viktoria.

 

Sources

1. 2019-08-16. The future of global shipping industry is…bikes.

2. 2019-06-24. The Physical Internet and containerised last mile delivery.

3. 2019-05-20. Interview with Niklas Ankarcrona, co-founder and Chairman.